Cinnamon may help support blood sugar management by increasing insulin sensitivity, decreasing blood sugar levels after eating, and reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Diabetes is a condition that affects blood sugar management, which can lead to long-term complications like heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage (
Treatment often includes medications and insulin injections, but many people are also interested in foods that can help lower blood sugar.
One example is cinnamon, a commonly used spice that’s added to sweet and savory dishes around the world.
This article tells you everything you need to know about cinnamon and its effects on blood sugar management and diabetes.
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice that comes from the bark of several species of Cinnamomum trees (
While you may associate cinnamon with rolls or breakfast cereals, it has actually been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine and food preservation (
To obtain cinnamon, the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees must be removed. The bark then undergoes a drying process that causes it to curl up and yield cinnamon sticks, or quills, which can be further processed into powdered cinnamon.
Several different varieties of cinnamon are sold in the United States, and they are typically categorized into two different types (
- Ceylon: Also called true cinnamon, this is the most expensive type of cinnamon.
- Cassia: This type is less expensive and found in most food products that contain cinnamon.
While both types are sold as cinnamon, there are important differences between the two, which will be discussed later in this article.
Cinnamon is made from the dried bark of Cinnamomum trees and is generally categorized into two varieties.
A single teaspoon (tsp), the average serving size of cinnamon, doesn’t contain a lot of vitamins or minerals. But many recipes call for more than just 1 tsp, and larger amounts of cinnamon do contain a high amount of vitamins and minerals. It also contains larger amounts of antioxidants, which provide many of cinnamon’s health benefits (
In fact, one study in 84 people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) found that taking 1,500 milligrams (mg) of cinnamon daily led to a significant increase in antioxidant blood levels after 8 weeks (
One study showed that consuming 1 gram (g) of cinnamon extract daily for 12 weeks reduced fasting blood sugar levels and improved markers of oxidative stress in people with type 2 diabetes (
Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants that decrease oxidative stress. This may be beneficial for several chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
In people with diabetes, either their pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or cells do not respond to insulin properly, leading to high blood sugar levels.
One study in 80 people with PCOS found that taking 1.5 g of cinnamon powder daily for 12 weeks caused a significant reduction in fasting insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity compared with a placebo (
Cinnamon may help lower blood sugar by mimicking the effects of insulin and increasing insulin’s ability to move sugar into cells.
Several studies suggest that cinnamon may help improve blood sugar management.
In fact, a review of 16 studies concluded that cinnamon could significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels and insulin resistance compared with a placebo in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes (
Some studies have also found that it could also lower hemoglobin A1c, a measure of long-term blood sugar control.
For instance, a research review reported that cinnamon could reduce hemoglobin A1c in people with type 2 diabetes by 0.27% to 0.83% while also decreasing fasting blood sugar levels by up to 52.2 mg per deciliter (
According to another review of 11 studies, cinnamon supplements could lead to modest reductions in fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c (
However, researchers also noted that more studies are needed and cinnamon should not be used in place of medications or diet and lifestyle changes to manage blood sugar levels (
Cinnamon shows promise in lowering fasting blood sugar levels and reducing hemoglobin A1c. However, more research is needed.
Postprandial blood sugar refers to your blood sugar level after eating. Blood sugar levels can increase quite a bit after you eat, depending on the size of the meal and how many carbs it contains (
Cinnamon can help keep these blood sugar spikes after meals in check. Some research suggests that it does this by slowing down the rate at which food empties out of your stomach (19).
A study from 2007 found that consuming 1.2 tsp, or 6 g, of cinnamon with a serving of rice pudding slowed the emptying of the stomach and decreased subsequent spikes in blood sugar levels compared with eating rice pudding alone (
Other studies suggest that cinnamon may lower blood sugar following meals by blocking digestive enzymes that break down carbs in the small intestine (
Cinnamon can help lower blood sugar following meals, possibly by slowing stomach emptying and blocking digestive enzymes.
For example, one review of 13 studies showed that cinnamon could decrease levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease (
Diabetes has also been increasingly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, with some people now referring to Alzheimer’s disease as type 3 diabetes. The classification of type 3 diabetes is highly controversial, and it’s not widely accepted by the medical community as a clinical diagnosis (
Studies suggest that cinnamon extract may decrease the ability of two proteins — beta-amyloid and tau — to form plaques and tangles, which are routinely linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (
However, this research has been completed only in test tubes and animal studies. Further studies in humans are needed to confirm these findings.
Cinnamon may help lower the risk of diseases related to diabetes, such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research is needed.
Cinnamon is typically grouped into two different types — Ceylon and Cassia.
Cassia cinnamon can be derived from a few different species of Cinnamomum trees. It’s generally inexpensive and is found in most food products and the spice aisle of the grocery store.
Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is specifically derived from the Cinnamomum verum tree. It’s typically more expensive and less common than Cassia, but studies have shown that Ceylon cinnamon contains more antioxidants (
Because it contains more antioxidants, it’s possible that Ceylon cinnamon may offer more health benefits.
Nevertheless, although several animal and test-tube studies have highlighted the benefits of Ceylon cinnamon, most studies demonstrating health benefits of cinnamon in humans have used the Cassia variety (
While both varieties of cinnamon likely lower blood sugar and fight diabetes, most research has focused on the potential benefits of Cassia cinnamon. More research is needed.
Cassia cinnamon is not only lower in antioxidants but also high in a potentially harmful substance called coumarin, an organic substance found in many plants.
Several studies in rats have shown coumarin can be toxic to the liver, leading to concern that it may cause liver damage in humans as well (
Accordingly, the European Food Safety Authority has set the tolerable daily intake for coumarin at 0.045 mg per pound (lb.), or 0.1 mg per kilogram (kg) (
Using average coumarin levels for Cassia cinnamon, this would be equivalent to about half a tsp (2.5 g) of Cassia cinnamon per day for a 165-pound (75-kg) individual.
Cassia cinnamon is particularly high in coumarin, and you can easily consume more than the upper limit by taking Cassia cinnamon supplements or even eating large amounts of it in foods.
However, Ceylon cinnamon contains much lower amounts of coumarin, and it would be difficult to consume more than the recommended amount of coumarin with this type (
Additionally, people with diabetes who take medications or insulin should talk with a doctor before adding cinnamon to their daily routine, as it could increase the risk of low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia (32).
Cassia cinnamon is high in coumarin, which may cause liver damage if consumed in high amounts. People taking medications for diabetes should also talk to a doctor before taking cinnamon supplements to avoid adverse side effects.
Cinnamon’s benefits for lowering blood sugar have been well-studied.
Yet despite this, no consensus has been reached regarding how much you should consume to reap the benefits while avoiding potential risks.
Generally, most research has studied the effects of 1–6 g per day, either as a supplement or powder added to foods (
However, keep in mind that the coumarin content of Cassia cinnamon can vary. That’s why it may be best to stick to lower doses of around 0.5–1 g of Cassia cinnamon per day to avoid surpassing the tolerable daily intake of coumarin.
On the other hand, Ceylon cinnamon contains significantly less coumarin and can be consumed safely in doses of up to 1.2 tsp. (6 g) per day (
Be sure to talk with a doctor before adding cinnamon supplements to your routine. You may want to start with a lower dose and work your way up to avoid adverse effects on health.
It may be best to limit your intake of Cassia cinnamon to 0.5–1 g per day. Ceylon cinnamon can be consumed in higher amounts, even though it may not be necessary.
Many studies have suggested that cinnamon has the ability to lower blood sugar and help manage common diabetes complications, among other health benefits.
If you want to take cinnamon supplements or add it to your meals to help lower your blood sugar, it may be best to use Ceylon instead of Cassia.
While it may be more expensive, Ceylon cinnamon contains more antioxidants and lower amounts of coumarin, which can potentially cause liver damage.
It’s probably best not to exceed 0.5–1 g of Cassia daily, but taking up to 1.2 tsp (6 g) daily of Ceylon cinnamon is likely safe.